Notre Dame's Chris Tyree, NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch fan club

On3 imageby:Andy Wittry10/21/22


Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree recently became the first college athlete to launch a fan club with NBC Sports Athlete Direct, which is NBCUniversal’s NIL pilot program.

On several occasions, Damon Phillips, the SVP of Strategic Initiatives at NBC Sports Group, has told On3 that NBC Sports Athlete Direct is focused on “the other 99%” of college athletes. However, the Notre Dame running back’s new fan club shows the potential value of the platform for athletes who are closer to the top 1%.

Membership-based programs and clubs are common in the NIL landscape through both NIL collectives and third-party companies such as YOKE or The Players’ Lounge, which provide fans with virtual and in-person access to athletes.

However, given the scale and scope of NBCUniversal, it can provide its members with benefits, such as streaming subscriptions and movie tickets, that NIL collectives and other companies either can’t or likely won’t.

Memberships cost $99.99 for Chris Tyree’s fan club

Fans can join Tyree’s membership program for $99.99 in exchange for access to a members-only podcast, an autographed photo, a virtual meet and greet with Tyree, six months of Peacock Premium and two movie tickets from Fandango.

Peacock Premium costs $4.99 per month and members of Tyree’s membership program receive a $30 Fandango promo code, so those two perks provide roughly $60 worth of value.

“We’re trying to take a different approach to fan clubs,” Phillips said Friday to On3 in a phone interview. “Part of this is how do we interject the NBCUniversal special sauce into this. What can we do to differentiate it? With Chris Tyree’s fan club, this is our first fan club. It’s a pilot so we’re learning a lot.

“What’s great here is that we bring the best of NBCUniversal in terms of Peacock and Fandango and we’re marrying that with the assets that Chris can bring to the table, being able to provide unprecedented access to him.”

Tyree is a former On3 Consensus four-star recruit who ranks second on the team with 256 rushing yards through six games. Tyree’s fan club launched prior to Notre Dame’s Week 8 home game against UNLV, which will exclusively stream on Peacock Premium.

Notre Dame fans who consider joining the fan club will have to ask whether the autographed photo and digital and virtual access to Tyree is worth roughly $40, in addition to the Peacock Premium subscription and tickets through Fandango.

However, the $99.99 price point isn’t set in stone, given that Tyree is the first athlete to launch a fan club through the NIL pilot program.

“This is really about testing and learning. We’re going to learn a lot over the next couple weeks here about what the right price points are,” Phillips said, later continuing, “We want to do a couple things here. One is we want to make sure that the athlete is participating in the revenue because that’s really important and we also want to make sure that there’s value for fans as part of this and we want to create a business model that’s sustainable.

“So price point-wise, we’re going to be experimenting.”

NBC Sports Athlete Direct’s past NIL initiatives

One of the NIL opportunities NBC Sports Athlete Direct has offered to college athletes at Notre Dame, Temple and Vanderbilt was sponsored social media posts that promoted MLB Sunday Leadoff. MLB Sunday Leadoff is Peacock’s presentation of MLB games.

As one example, for a game between the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies, NBC Sports Athlete Direct offered athletes from those two markets $100 in exchange for promoting MLB Sunday Leadoff on social media.

“We are very different than a lot of the companies in the space because not only are we coming to you with this Gen Z influencer network, we have the ability to integrate into other sales packages,” Phillips told On3 in July. “We can sell you TV. There’s video advertising that we can do on top of what we’re doing with NIL. There’s digital. There’s all these other things that we can do so we can come to you with multiple solutions and NIL is a part of that package.”

Big Ten media rights could provide future opportunities

Tyree’s membership program outlines the value proposition for NBCUniversal and its partners through NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

More college sports programming is moving to streaming services. Peacock, for example, will exclusively stream eight regular-season Big Ten football games per season and up to 47 regular-season men’s basketball games and 30 regular-season women’s basketball games through the Big Ten’s recently announced media rights deals. The deals take effect in the fall of 2023.

If diehard fans will need to purchase subscriptions to watch their favorite team, NIL membership programs that offer streaming subscriptions, such as Tyree’s, could offer an interesting value proposition for all parties involved.

“Something we’re definitely looking at is how we scale this and how we expand it, and where it makes the most sense is where we have an opportunity to use our assets to be a barker for the fan club,” Phillips said Friday. “Naturally, that fits into, ‘Where do you have media rights?’ We’re definitely looking at a way to scale this and that’s why getting reps right now, this season, is important because we have even more opportunities next season because of our expanded college sports properties.”